TIFF 2020: “True Mothers”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

With plenty of couples around that try to conceive but cannot, it’s heartbreaking to see those who can take actual parenthood for granted. In those cases, we tend to judge those who give up their flesh and blood, not knowing the real reasons behind their shocking decision. “True Mothers” does not provide a definitive answer to it but provides one of those examples where the one who does not want to raise their child was unable to make a decision on their own.

Drawn with emotionally deep performances from the leading actresses, Hiromi Nagasaku and Aju Makita, the film follows two women whose paths cross on a life-changing day – when the fourteen-year-old Hikari (Aju Makita) gives up her son for adoption to his new family members, Satoku (Hiromi Nagasaku) and Kiyokazu (Arata Iura), a loving middle-class couple from Tokyo. Six years later, Hikari reappears, wanting to be part of her son’s life.

Broken into multiple parts, taking the story back and forth to eventually draw a logical conclusion, the film starts with Satoko and Kiyokazu, a lovely married couple who try to become a parent. However, when Kiyokazu finds out that he is infertile, he offers his wife an option for divorce, which she refuses. Eventually, thinking that they will now have to grow old together, without a child, seeing news on TV talking about adoption and a company that offers its service, Baby Baton, the Kurihari family gladly makes a trip to the organization to submit an application.

The moment when they finally meet Hikari face-to-face was the only time when they see each other. Six years pass and a phone call disturbs the ideal day of the family. The voice on the other side was Hikari’s, and then we are taken to six years prior, to learn about the events that led Hikari to Baby Baton. We find out that Hikari’s classmate, whom she is in love with, had gotten her pregnant. Despite her young age, Hikari had no intention of giving up her child. However, her strict parents had different plans for her, and one of them was giving away the child. It was a crucial moment that crushes Hikari and puts her into a difficult position where, eventually, she won’t be able to cope with it which, under her circumstances was understandable.

To not spoil the film, “True Mothers” is an outstanding Japanese drama that will engage your entire mind throughout. Adapted from a 2015 novel by Mizuki Tsujimura, the film directed by Naomi Kawase, make no mistake, will leave you in a devastating mode throughout. Emotionally charged with a subtle concept, the director easy wrestles with the opportunity and heavy concept to deliver a truly poignant drama that will leave you in tears. It’s a beautiful story of two women and one boy, who does not know how lucky he is to have two loving mothers, whether the real is near or far. And that’s the story we want to hear all the time, that will touch us deeply, to awaken our emotions that we think weakens us.

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